“Baseball Rule” In Personal Injury Cases At Risk Of Being Tossed Out By Judges

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What can you sue for in a personal injury case?”


Several court cases are converging in what some experts believe may result in some changes in the way that Major League Baseball deals with injuries to fans. The rule has long been that the assumption of risk doctrine protected teams and the MLB from liability associated with injuries caused by foul balls or broken bats. Whether that continues to hold true remains to be seen, and, should the protection go away or be diminished, expect serious changes at your local ballpark as teams are forced to worry more about fan safety.


Baseball Charlotte Injury Lawyer Mecklenburg accident attorneyThe first case at issue comes from a Yankees fan, Andy Zlotnick. Zlotnick was gathered with his teenage son and two friends to watch a 2011 Yankees game that had been repeatedly interrupted by the rain. Others in the stadium had umbrellas out, something that prevented Zlotnick from seeing the foul ball heading his way. The speeding baseball hit Zlotnick in his face, shattering all the bones around his left eye, fracturing his sinus and upper jaw and resulting in extensive surgery to repair the damage. Zlotnick sustained $100,000 worth of injury, shelling out $25,000 of his own money in medical bills.


Had the injury happened in another setting, perhaps at a restaurant or in a movie theater, Zlotnick might have a slam-dunk personal injury case. Instead, the incident occurred in a ballpark and, as a result, the Yankees have tried deflecting the case based on the principle of assumption of risk. Assumption of risk, also known in some circles as the baseball rule, says that a defendant is not liable for certain harms because the plaintiff assumed the risk that these harms might occur. In the case of baseball, the Yankees (and every other team in the MLB) argue that the fans who were seated along the foul lines understood the risk that they might get hit by a stray ball or broken bat and chose to attend the game anyway.


For years this doctrine has applied, but some wonder whether Zlotnick might find a way around it. The reason is the umbrellas. The umbrellas made it even harder for a fan, even a careful one like Zlotnick, to avoid being injured by a foul ball. Without being able to see what was coming, Zlotnick had little if any practical way to avoid danger. Interestingly, the Yankees changed their policy the year after Zlotnick’s injury, specifically banning oversized umbrellas and making clear that patrons could be asked to close any umbrellas that are found to block the sight lines of other fans.


Two other lawyers have joined together in an unrelated case to file a class-action lawsuit against the MLB on behalf of all season-ticket holders. The suit claims that the MLB and Commission Rob Manfred failed to protect fans from the dangers posed by foul balls and broken bats and have refused to enact even common sense safety measures like putting up better safety netting. The lawyers argue that the notion of assumption of risk should no longer apply given the bigger, stronger players, increased distractions in stadiums and seats designed to be closer to the foul lines. Given that numbers of fans injured at professional baseball games is staggering (a recent analysis by Bloomberg revealed that 1,750 fans are injured each year), the impact of these cases might be quite substantial. Both fans and MLB teams alike will likely be anxiously waiting to hear if the baseball rule will continue or if judges decide the teams ought to be held financially responsible for the injuries they cause.


If you are injured contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled to.  Feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.



About the Author

Matt Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.








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